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Compassion needn’t traumatize

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While I was born after the Korean war, it is still sobering to know I was a product of its aftermath.  More sobering still, are reminders of just how bad it was for the people of The Forgotten War.

While doing image research on Korean websites today, (I love google translate) I stumbled across this amazing footage of Korean orphans during and after the war.

The Christian missionary focus of the video is unmistakable, and I couldn’t figure out if this was a memorial to the Reverend Everett Swanson mentioned or if it was someone in Korea seriously living in the past, or WHAT it could be about.

Part of me continued with trepidation, thinking it might be yet-another-attempt at canonizing and perpetuating International Adoption.

But to my pleasant surprise, these are the posts of Compassion South Korea, a branch of Compassion International (and where the organization first began), and their focus is now, and has always been, sponsorship.  Interestingly, the sponsorship today is not for Koreans, but from Koreans for children of other countries.  And, I was correct that the footage and images are there as memorial to the founder and as a reminder of how tragedy was once in Korea’s backyard and how Koreans can return the favor.  And you know what?  I bet all the 22,000 children he helped are currently productive members of Korean society, with roots here despite their losses.

Seeing these images I am so deeply moved by what happened to the country of my birth, the land where I’m currently residing.  And I truly do see how humanitarians could have been blinded by their desires to help fast and think later.  But clearly, as the late Rev. Swindon demonstrated – we can help children without forcing them to lose their country, culture, language, and each other.

God, I’m always relieved whenever I see Christians NOT wreaking havoc and doing something beneficial.  I wish Harry Holt had taken his cues from Rev. Swindon…

Written by girl4708

September 29, 2011 at 5:45 am

Korea’s Lost Children

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Check out the BBC documentary, Korea’s Lost Children featuring:

yours truly,

Jane Jeong Trenka, (president of TRACK)

Hyun-Sook (founder of Miss Mama Mia)

Molly Holt (president of Holt Children’s Services Korea)

Two connections I failed to make in the documentary (gah!  so close…media attention will be over long before I ever even come close to mastering being fully present for it):

  1. 13 years after the war, the reason I was abandoned was BECAUSE adoption agencies had set themselves up as the only solution for difficult family situations.  And NOT just standing by at the ready, but actively canvassing for children. It was a propaganda wave and a system set up to pipeline children straight to the airport.  That’s just chilling in my book.
  2. Adoption agencies say they MUST be here or catastrophic conclusions will become realities.  When in actuality, their presence retards the implementation of adequate social programming.

One question everyone should ask themselves is:  Why are the adoption agencies against laws to improve social programming and protecting the civil rights of children? Shouldn’t it be the goal of every adoption program on the planet, especially a Christian organization, to no longer be needed? Who do they care the most about?  Hmm?

And something everyone should consider is:  When you choose to ignore questionable ethics and continue to participate out of self interest, then your own ethics are also questionable. And nearly every adoptee I’ve spoken with, even the ones that had great experiences, you can tell.  You can tell how they came to become family does not feel good to them.

So why aren’t we all working together to clean the mess up?  I’ll tell you why:


Written by girl4708

August 8, 2010 at 2:35 am

Confronting a Mother’s Pain – Redux

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New (to me) horrifying discoveries about adoption in Korea.

New unwed mothers homes and name changes

ESWS opened new unwed mothers home and changed their names.

Location Before After
Pyeongtaek Esther’s Home Esther’s Home
Seoul Sharon’s Home Saengmyeong Nuri
Gyeongbook Sharon’s Home Sharon’s Home
Anyang Sharon’s Home Hanbit Nuri
Daejeon None Hatssal Nuri
Incheon None Seum Nuri
Jeonju None Gippeum Nuri

Maybe that doesn’t seem so horrible to you, but in Korea, there is no time limit between birth and relinquishment like there is in most other countries.  That means the mothers are never given the opportunity to bond with their babies and possibly experience what they might be missing by relinquishing.  This means that mothers can relinquish while the children are in utero.  So this particular one waits until after the child is born – I don’t know what is worse for the mom…

This practice used to occur in the United States and Australia, but was OUTLAWED because it essentially exploited vulnerable girls. (often at the behest of their parents)  These homes for unwed mothers were called Baby Farms, because privileged people who wanted babies to adopt were essentially cultivating them…

More unwed mothers homes by – AN ADOPTION AGENCY.  No conflict of interest there…

Even more horrifying to me is that the adoption agencies RECOGNIZE how traumatic this is, and hope to ameliorate it with ceremonies to facilitate closure.  I call that twisted.  I call that damage control in the aftermath of manipulation and exploitation.  Read below.  It’s truly horrible.  There’s nothing I can add to that, as it speaks for itself.

from ESWS’s website:


There are many kinds of farewells in this world. All partings are heart
wrenching but is there one more painful than that of a baby separated from its mother as soon as it is born? Though the baby cannot express itself, the distress it causes is quite real.

At the same time, the distress caused by the separation is also enormous for the birth mother who has relinquished all rights to the baby. There is a report that identifies undeniable effects to the birth mother after her decision to give up her baby for adoption. In her report about Birth Mother Syndrome, Paik Yun Oak writes that giving up the right to a baby is like a living death. There is a finality to a typical death but in this living death, a mother who has given up her baby must cope with the range of emotions that comes from one extreme which is the hope of one day perhaps being able to meet her child and the other extreme, her current unbearable hopelessness. Mothers report repeatedly dreaming about losing their babies, fantasizing about marrying the fathers of the babies and living happily together, denying ever having given up their babies for adoption, losing themselves in alcohol or drug addiction or promiscuous sexual behavior. There are some who report having lost all memories of the birth or adoption, having bitterness towards the person who recommended adoption, feeling extreme isolation, living with guilt and shame and with the fear that she will be punished or in extreme cases attempting suicide caused by depression. In addition, these mothers are reported to have very low self esteem in raising their children after marriage and question their parental competence.

At Esther’s house, we aim to not only provide housing and prenatal care for safe births but programs for psychological support so that birth mothers can ease their loss and increase their confidence. According to Director Lee Kwang Mi who plans and oversees these programs, “many birth mothers experience much psychological pain and because there is so little to help them assimilate back into society and their previous lives, I have keenly felt that we need a rehabilitation program. As such, at Esther’s House, Choi Seung Hee, a social welfare Professor from Pyongtek University provides a loss program, farewell program and a confidence program for birth mothers.” Academics have reported that if a birth mother does not see her child or does not go through the process of saying good-bye, her ability to overcome her loss will be much more difficult. In this environment, accepting the reality of the adoption and being allowed to say good-bye allows birth mothers to accept their situation and lead a much more enriched life.

In our magazine, we describe a “farewell” ceremony for the birth mothers at Esther’s Home.

The ceremony began with a prayer by social worker Chang Bo kyung on behalf of the mothers who have decided to say farewell so that their children could have a better future. There were four babies in the middle of the hall. Even before the prayer began, there were sounds of sadness from the mothers. A birth mother stood by the foot of her baby with her head hanging down in tears and sadness. Once the prayer ended, Esther’s House employees took square pieces of paper to make a stamp of the babies’ feet and cut locks of hair. These will be passed along to the birth mothers so that they can cherish it.

Following was a time for reading letters by the mothers to their babies. The mothers each read a letter that they have written. Mothers read and stop overwhelmed by emotions and then read again. The mothers cried in sorrow because this might the last chance for the babies to hear their mothers’ voices.

Soon thereafter, the director of Esther’s Home, Lee Kwang Mi read a poem about birth parents and adoptive parents entitled “Legacy of an adopted child”. The director then asks the mothers to promise that they will pray for their child at least once a day and the mothers respond that they will. Then she prayed for the birth mothers who have physically and psychologically toiled and for the babies who will meet new adoptive parents. Then she approached each baby to bless them so that they will meet good families and grow up to be fine people.

The official part of the ceremony ended thus and the employees left the mothers to be with their babies. The mothers held on to their babies who have no idea what is happening and murmured words of love and sorrow. Mothers cried “baby, I’m so sorry. Your mother loves you so much. I will look for you later… I am so sorry.” Babies who had been born only three to four days ago stare up at the ceiling, only to start crying when the mothers hugged them hard in their sorrow.

The babies were then taken on a van to a temporary care center in Seoul and the mothers sat there in their sorrow unable to move.

The tummies of young mothers are now back in shape but the pain was added in their hearts. We should help them heal the pains in their hearts

Um, how about not cause the trauma to begin with and help these girls keep their babies?

Eastern Social Welfare Society is a licensed, nonprofit organization dedicated to finding nurturing homes for children. Founded in 1972 by Dr. Duk Whang Kim, ESWS has placed more than 35,000 children in loving homes in Korea, USA and Australia.

This is not the 1950’s. This is still happening TODAY.

Ugh. And try this one on for size…

ESWS 06.04.07 51

Victims, orphans, sadness, unstableness, and anger are the images that Korean media have created for adoptees who live overseas. This kind of images made Korean people feel sympathy on overseas adoptees and treat them with pity, which a lot of adoptees feel uncomfortable about.

ESWS is trying to change images of adult adoptees to a more positive way by showing they are happy, generous and mature adults who contribute themselves to this society.

ESWS had a survey for adult adoptees in the US and Australia last year. We traced where they live, what they do and have achieved and what they think about adoption. The survey turned out that many adult adoptees are well-educated, mature, strong, smart and well-rounded. Thus, ESWS decided to publish a book on the survey results to help change the prejudice of Korean people on adopted people. This book will mainly focus on the present and future of Eastern adoptees, rather than on the past that most media have focused on. However, we are in need of budget to publish this book.

To publish the Korean version, we need approximately
USD 3,000 for 500 copies. If you send sponsorship money, we will publish your name in the book and will send a copy to you. Photos and comments are welcomed.

I don’t think they want my photos or comments.  I’m certainly not going to give them credit for the hard work and accomplishments I’ve achieved IN SPITE OF having to deal with racism, abuse, and loss of everything they take for granted.

The adoption agencies worry about the adoptees being seen as damaged products on the supply side or sending defective goods on the demand side, because to them it’s a business.  Adoption agencies see Korean sympathy for adoptees as a problem.  This is a good thing, only because they’re worried about their income source.  We need and deserve sympathy.  Pity, no.  But yes, give us your sympathy.  This tactic of theirs to interchange the two emotions of sympathy and pity is used to divide adoptees and weaken the opposition to their unethical practices.  And I’m sorry – whatever benevolence they think they are trying to achieve are misguided fantasies.  Unethical practices are unethical practices, no matter what their intent.

I also think it takes a really strong, thoughtful, well-rounded people to have the fortitude and commitment to see injustice and battle it for the good of all society.

What’s evident to me is the adoption agencies, as exhibited in the defensive acts quoted above, know they are causing harm, no matter how they try to justify it.  The criticism stings precisely because it is accurate.  And these efforts to ameliorate criticism just goes to show how flat their rationalizing is.

There is no war.  There is no starvation.  There is only exploiting the vulnerable.  We adoptees have a right to be angry.  Stripped of our names, birth dates, country, culture, and language – and then placed in a world where everyone must stop and decide how to process our difference.  Being angry at the adoption agencies does not mean we are imbalanced.  It just means we have hearts and brains.

These practices need to stop.

Have they no shame or human decency?

Written by girl4708

October 31, 2009 at 4:54 am

Baby Exporting Nation

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I posted this before, but this copy has English Subtitles…

Written by girl4708

July 22, 2009 at 2:58 am

Posted in Dealing with the Devil

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My Theory

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All during the search in Wonju people would tell us what happened and how it was back then, but actually none of them knew and they were all theories.  Well, here’s my theory, based upon the later realization that my age was deliberately tampered with:

Someone from Wonju added Kim Sook Ja to my document because they knew we were siblings and it would be easier and less paperwork.

Then, someone else at Holt didn’t like that because it made us harder to adopt as siblings, so they attempted to distance our relationship by changing my birth date, but that’s all they could do because the mayor’s stamp was already on the two for one document.

I don’t know why they gave us different family names.  Maybe those ARE our names.  Maybe we’re half siblings.  There are many stories where grandmas end up taking care of their daughter’s children of different fathers, or of women forced to give up their children by other men when remarrying.  Anyway, there are many scenarios that can explain two half siblings.

Holt didn’t have any theories.  They only said that nobody imagined adoptees would return asking questions…

Written by girl4708

July 3, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Separated by adoption?

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So yesterday, the t.v. station sent me a still from the documentary.

This is the photo of me, Suh Yung Sook, on my log book entry, next to the photo of Kim Sook Ja.  Both of us were recorded as coming from the same city, on the same day, and ATYPICALLY we were both entered on the same document.  Holt Korea says we couldn’t possibly be sisters, because we have different family names – however, the document says our names were made up.

Holt Korea produced this photo of the other girl at our meeting in Seoul, presumably to prove to me that she was not my twin, because it says on that document we are the same age.  (which I always thought had pretty low odds anyway)  But instead of discouraging me, it made me think there was an even greater possibility we could be siblings.  What do you think?

My daughter thinks there might also a resemblance between both of us and my son…

My daughter Sara, to the left, and David, to the right

According to the birthdates Holt gave us, I am six months OLDER than Kim Sook Ja, so they say we “couldn’t possibly” be sisters, even though on the earliest document from Wonju, it says we are the same age.  Upon closer inspection, my age appears to have been re-written/traced-over/changed. It is CLEAR from these photos that I “couldn’t possibly” be older than Kim Sook Ja!  What is OBVIOUS, though, is that my birth date was grossly off target (probably a full year off), which is a ludicrous degree: a degree that would only be lost on some adopting parent ordering a child sight un-seen.

Holt has repeatedly tried to explain away the Wonju document and stood behind the log book entries’ data as written, even as it becomes revealed that the data has such serious and obvious discrepencies.

Holt tried NOT to help me search for Kim Sook Ja and only acquiesed under pressure from me about going public.

Holt, who says they found her and called her, says she has not replied and is therefore uninterested in finding out whether or not we are siblings. 

Did Holt tell her about the discrepancies between the Wonju document and the log book entries? I bet they didn’t.

Did Holt pass along any information about me or that I merely wanted to know the truth? NO.  And they wouldn’t even let me send her a brief note with my friendly sentiments.

On a cold March day in 1966, two little girls began a journey which would change their lives forever.  That day was the day they were transferred to an orphanage to begin their life as orphans, to be adopted and sent away to foreign lands with foreign people.

You and I were together that day.  You and I were together the next four days and possibly the next nine months.  Were we together prior to that day?  Only meeting can rule out the remote possibility of relations undocumented.

You are the only living person I know who has anything to do with my past and I would at the very least like to contact you, however you feel comfortable.  We are sisters in solidarity, and I would be interested in hearing how you’ve fared in life.

Fondest regards,

Leanne Leith

Holt defines any self representation by me as CONTACT, even though I still don’t know her name or where she is.  They merely told her some adoptee thought she was their sister, and left it to her to decide if she wanted CONTACT (i.e., viewing the above note), even though they failed to provide her with the full story.  To me that note is an INVITATION to contact, handed off by a third party.  These semantics have done possibly irreparable damage.

Holt did an excellent job scaring her away.  This is how it is for us adoptees, being forced to have the same people who brokered our adoption be the only ones with access to our files and the only ones who can facilitate contact.  Now tell me that isn’t a CONFLICT OF INTEREST?

They say this is to protect the other adoptee.

I say it is to protect themselves from being exposed as breaking up a sibling goup.

And you know what?  After moving to Korea, I can tell you that all Asians do not look alike, and that if unrelated and the sharing of abandonment date, place, and documents were really as random as they say, one would expect the two children pictured above to look radically diffferent.

At this point, I of course don’t want to meet her if she doesn’t want to.  But I would like to prove conclusively that we are or are not related, just so I know what’s true and not true about this chapter in my life.  We can meet in a DNA testing lab – that’s all I need from her at this point.  Of course I would be interested in hearing how she fared, but just the truth is enough.  And Holt should have provided her with all the information they had, so she could have made an INFORMED decision about receiving contact from me.

Wouldn’t anybody in my circumstance want the truth?  Does the way Holt has dealt with my case resemble the actions of people who purport to CARE ABOUT FAMILIES?

How many other Korean adoptees were split up for ease of sale and they are none the wiser?  Holt says they have nothing to hide.  But even if they  don’t, I believe their actions speak louder than their words, and they are afraid that if I find Kim Sook Ja and we are sisters, then it will expose them as an organization that SEPARATES families in order to create new ones.

Written by girl4708

June 24, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Dealing with the Devil

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More unsolved mysteries

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I’ve been up thinking about this number problem…

I’ve never been good at solving mysteries, and so this is keeping me awake.

notice how my age is much heavier than all the other writing on this document, as if it has been written over and changed from a “2” to a “3.”

Also, Kim Sook Ja’s name is written in different handwriting.

WHY would someone add another child to my document and then CHANGE my age to something older?  A whole year older?

The little square photo of me was taken at the same time as the photo of me and the nurse.  However, all the Koreans here and most people in general say that even if that was taken soon after I was found, there is no way I am 3 years (2 years American) Korean in that photo.  And if it was taken before I was found, then my family was one of the few rich families that could afford a camera. (Not likely.  That is a statue of Jesus in the background, btw… )

I asked Mrs. Seol how she could know Kim Sook Ja was younger than me by 6 months, and she told us that children’s ages were estimated by their physical examination and usually the number of teeth they have.

It says in my medical report documents that I had 16 teeth.  That would place me at 13 to 19 months age.

Clearly, with no Second Molar, I was probably not already two years old. So WHY would they list us as the same age?   Kim Sook Ja’s photo clearly shows she is at least a year older than me. (if not older)  A year’s difference between children at the time in development is HUGE.

It seems to me that the age discrepancy on the document was intentional.

In most cases I have heard of an orphan’s age being changed, it is changed to a younger date to make the child more desirable for adoption. So to change me to  year older at such a young stage in development is bizarre, as more adoptive parents would rather have a 14-18 month old old than a 24+ month old child.

Unless perhaps there was some child identity swapping going on? AND, it is much easier to change a “2” to a “3” than it is to change Kim Sook Ja’s age “3” to another number.

Or maybe if I was stolen, or more likely – my abandonment might have been contested?  (I’m sorry Mrs. ____ there are no 2 yr. olds here, and no sisters either.  We only have 3 yr. olds from that week)

This little document just gets weirder and weirder every time I look at it.

Written by girl4708

June 22, 2009 at 5:34 am

Posted in Dealing with the Devil

Tagged with ,

Reports coming in

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Four days later, I am beginning to be able to gather the impressions people have had of the show.

It’s been very difficult to ascertain because of the communication gap that exists due to most people’s English speaking levels.  Mostly, I hear how sad it was.  But I am coming to believe that “sad” is a catch-all word, and that the impression is more nuanced than that.

At lunch my Korean friends told me they had never heard about the bad side of adoption before, and that this was important for them to hear:  they had often said in the past that they wished they had been adopted to America.  One of my adult students said he was in tears.  Just now on the roof, a Korean English teacher, with an excellent command of English, told me he hadn’t realized how frustrating it was to be separated from ones identity.  He opined that he felt it was the fault of the Korean government for sending children away with no regard to how it affects the children and separates them from their country and culture.  He expressed how now he can see things from the adoptee perspective and his opinion was greatly changed.  Many students in my classes mentioned the show and several of the boys wanted to talk to me about it.  One offered to teach me Korean (maybe I should take him up on it) and another said, “my country is (makes crazy sign at his temples).  Not me/us, but the country.”  I asked him to help me change it, and he nodded his head.

I am, to say the least, very very ecstatic over this.

People are asking me about how the adoption fees are spent and where the money goes.  Seven Star spoke again about the time he escorted children to Europe for Holt.  There were two escorts, and each were in charge of three children.   He said they were not paid for this.  I told him how Holt charges the parents escort fees.  I told him about Myung-Sook’s being forced to escort children to be adopted (for free while the adoptive parents presumably still paid for escorts) and how emotionally heartbreaking it was.  Everyone was outraged and said that the Korean people need to know.

Yes, they do.

I told them how HOLT thinks its okay for them, a COMPANY to hold our information from us.  I told them how it’s okay for HOLT to drop a bomb on girl #4709, but that it’s not okay for any of girl #4708’s sentiments to be passed along, because that constitutes CONTACT, even though only HOLT knows her identity and contact information.   What would be more shocking, a phone call from Holt after 40 years out of the blue?  Or a letter from Holt that included a friendly note from me with an explanation of why I was inquiring after her?  Because of the way they handled this, they have scared her away and possibly ruined the only chance I have to learn the truth.  I told them that there is a special place in Hell for HOLT, and they all agreed.

I am, to say the least, feeling very very good that I’m not the only one that thinks so.

Some more information has come to light about my search that I’m not at liberty to publish, since Holt is reading my blog now, but I guess I can say that this chapter is not quite yet closed.

It was a mistake for HOLT to treat me so callously.  It was a mistake for HOLT to lie to me.  It is a mistake that HOLT continues to put policy over human decency.  They say they are protecting girl 4709, but really, what are they really protecting?

Answer:  their own self worth.

Written by girl4708

June 18, 2009 at 4:23 am

Conversations with Holt: all falacy and no logic

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So I asked my adult Korean teacher student what Holt said in the documentary, and he said Mrs. Seol blamed their poor record of helping adoptees on the Korean government, that they needed financial help and the Korean government didn’t give it to them. Not true, said my student, they give some money towards Post Adoption Services, just not a lot.

Well, I don’t think the government should give Holt ANY money, as it won’t be accounted for. It only takes a couple seconds to photocopy their skinny records. It does, however, take half a day to defend your lame excuses for NOT being helpful to t.v. stations once you’ve made a big mess and are trying to get out of it.

I don’t have the raw footage, but I know it exists and so I can paraphrase what transpired in my meeting with Holt Korea and know that none of it is slander or libel. It’s recorded on film, these are my impressions of what was said, and the footage on file will corroborate it.

* At the beginning of our meeting, prior to my even asking these questions, Mrs. Seol began by saying all these problems were not Holt Korea’s fault because I had never spoken with Holt Korea directly. I told her Holt International told me they would talk with Holt Korea, and that it was they who offered to be my liason.
* When asked why Holt Korea said there was “nothing important” as an excuse not to send me my documents, Mrs. Seol defended Holt for keeping records when nobody else bothered. (I will concede this point) She also said that nobody ever imagined adoptees would return wanting to find out about themselves, so nobody bothered to take a lot of information. (again, this may be true, but that does not exonerate them from not providing the information they have to the adoptees upon request) I countered that what little information was there was MINE and ABOUT ME and shouldn’t be controlled by some company.
* When asked why there weren’t copies of these documents with my Holt International child records, Mrs. Seol said that documents include contracts between relinquishing parents and therefore they are confidential. I told her of course, and they still would be at Holt International, but it is a false claim if Holt International says they have all of our documents or that Holt Korea has, “nothing important.” There is no good reason a copy can not exist at Holt International, especially since they also have total control over what we adoptees can and can’t see.
* When asked why confidentiality about relinquishing parents made any difference in the case of an abandoned child, there was no answer.
* When asked why they couldn’t photocopy the contractural documents and white out any identifying information, there was no answer.

sells better separately, easier to record as one

easier to sell individually, less hassle to record as one

* When asked for more information about girl #4709, they said they could not do that because there was no way she could be my sister because of our age difference. I pointed out that they had my age wrong, that our names were made up, and that it was highly unusual for two girls to be on one document from the same place on the same day. Mrs. Seol claimed this was not unusual and flipped through the book for that year and showed us a couple documents that had lists of many orphans on them, with no specific information. However, these documents were clearly designed to list multiple children. Mine was very specific and asked specific information and was designed for one person. I challenged her to show me another document of the same format as mine from Wonju that listed multiple children. We flipped through the entire book, isolating each of the documents from Wonju that were of the same format, and NOT ONE of them had two children on the same document.
* When asked where Holt Korea ended and Holt International began, and why there had to be two separate companys, she said something like it became too difficult for Holt to coordinate what was going on in Korea. (which causes me to question their management skills, and why make it separate corporations unless there are financial reasons? To me, this was the end of transparency – yet another reason)
* When asked why their policy was different from Holt International’s, Mrs. Seol told me it “wasn’t my place” to ask about their operations. Mrs. Seol is younger than I am, so Confuscian respect standards have nothing to do with this, and asking about their operations is very much my place, since I am a pawn of their operations.
* When asked why they didn’t just give me my documents freely, Mrs. Seol said that Holt Korea is happy to give out documents when they are asked for, and that it was my fault because I didn’t ask her for that specific document by name. I told her I didn’t know there were more documents to begin with and how could I possibly ask for a document I didn’t know existed and, even more impossibly, ask for it by name. (I still don’t know the proper name of that document)
* When asked why I never got a translation of my documents as requested, Mrs. Seol produced a translation sent to Holt International, which I had never received. She said it should be up to me to get a translation where I lived, and that I didn’t ask for it when I asked for my documents.
* When asked why Mrs. Seol could not provide a list of orphanges near Wonju, Mrs. Seol said nobody had asked her for that. I told her I had emails from Holt International and INKAS saying they had asked her for that, and they told me she had said it was, “not possible.” She maintained that she never heard this request and that it was my fault because I didn’t contact her directly. (OK. Somebody here is lying, is it Holt International, INKAS, or Holt Korea?)
* “Can you imagine how it feels?” I asked her, going through this process? I told her that I lived in America, that I didn’t even KNOW there were multiple Holts at the time, that Holt International said they would contact Holt Korea, which is appropriate since I DON’T KNOW HOW TO SPEAK KOREAN, and that of course I needed a translation of any document from Korea, since I DON’T KNOW HOW TO READ KOREAN EITHER. Why does this have to be so hard?

Mrs. Seol was silent after this. Which was a pleasant change, because she didn’t allow me to get a word in edge-wise, and even though I repeatedly asked her to give me equal time or to break up her talking so I could get a proper translation, she barreled on. So for every five minutes of her talking, I would get a two sentence synopsis, and it was nearly impossible to get my questions inserted. Nearly every question I asked was met with a nasty attitude and on several occasions, eye rolls. She repeatedly said she didn’t have time for all this, and that if I didn’t have any questions about personal history, then she would have to leave. And I hear she even said she didn’t have time for abuse from an adoptee.

Abuse from an adoptee.

That’s rich…

In my later conversation with Steve Kalb, when I asked him why Holt couldn’t get me a list of orphanages near Wonju, there was a long pause and then he said, “yes it is true that Holt doesn’t have a comprehensive list of orphanages.”  I didn’t ask for a comprehensive list. I only asked for help with the names of orphanages near where I was abandoned, so I could begin a search in person. I told him that by searching on the internet I had found a couple myself, but why is it that Holt Korea says it’s “not possible”? I asked him, “Doesn’t Holt know where it gets its human bodies from? How is it Holt doesn’t know which orphanges they work with? Or isn’t Holt in the orphan business?” Silence on the other end.

These are the kinds of questions I and anybody in my situation would ask. And these are the kind of lame answers we get in response. Again, the lack of responsibility on Holt’s part was criminal. The history of abandonment and relinquishment in Korea was soul crushing. The lack of information was understandable. But to continue in this practice and to make it so difficult for adoptees in search to get information about themselves is NOT ACCEPTABLE. The past was the past, but the creation of orphans and sending them out of the country, as well as this continuing injustice and maltreatment of adoptees HAS TO END NOW.

All of the above begs the question, Why does the adoption agency act this way if there is nothing to hide?

What kind of people are they?  What kind of ethics do they have – not yesterday, but today?

Written by girl4708

June 17, 2009 at 1:59 pm

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Holt unscathed despite suffering of thousands

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The SBS documentary crew and I paid a visit to Holt Korea last Tuesday. Unbeknownst to us, Holt has a couple of buildings. The first building we went to didn’t house Post Adoption “Services” but did include a HOLT TRAVEL AGENCY.

My goodness, what other business ventures does Holt Korea have? It must also have offices where, apparently, Foster Moms come with the babies prior to dropping them off at the airport, as we met a foster mom with a six or seven month old baby on her way to take a little boy to his flight to America…

The SBS producer wanted to know if I wanted to talk with the foster mom or see the baby, and no: I did not. I won’t tell you what I wanted to do, but it might have involved me getting arrested, so I thought it best to just stand and watch them drive off.

And so, we got back in the van and drove to their other building.

Now, I have no idea what their definition of a healthy family “support” center is. Or even what their definition of “family” is in this case. But it seems kind of ironic to me that it’s on the same sign as Post Adoption “Services.” It’s also kind of sick to me that they have a guest house, because the baby’s new owners don’t live in this country, because they’re foreigners. All three items on that sign seem like one-stop shopping, a multi-plex of services all centered around an anonymous child whose fate is in question. This process of theirs doesn’t stop. It just becomes more sophisticated.

I didn’t take a photo of the big multi-story banner Holt put up on the building behind the sign, but basically it is a photo of a young man in traditional Korean garb sitting on the floor at a table dining in a traditional setting, and it is celebrating Korean culture. Again, disturbingly ironic to me as an adoptee that they sell the adoptive parents on Korean culture, when the babies will soon be stripped of it as soon as they get on the airplane. Inside the Holt offices as well, are little artifacts of Korean culture everywhere. Things that will delight the adoptive parents but be forever lost for the children. Things that will be totally meaningless to the children unless they come back here to live. Even then, they will be academic concepts. A souvenir shop is not necessary I guess, since they’re coming home with the ultimate souvenir.

Even more sick is that Holt is blind to the fact that international adoption hurts those babies/little people. They are so damned convinced by their own arguments that they are saviors doing God’s work, they think they are above reproach. May they all be orphans in their next life, since that’s what it seems it will take for them to see anyone’s perspective other than their own.

When (if) you see Holt defend themselves in the documentary, I think their patriarchal attitude will be evident. They have historically offered, “we have nothing to hide” even prior to anyone accusing them of that. And I don’t believe they DO have anything to hide. But they DO have a culture of paranoia and non-transparency, presenting theories as facts, being arbiters of what is and isn’t important, obfuscation of the facts, protectionist policies, and stone-walling attempts to gather information: so that tells me they have a conscience, they know they have things to answer for, and they are ashamed of themselves.

They are like children caught in a lie. It’s easy to rationalize ones actions. It’s easy to act in the name of God. It’s easy to tell less than the whole truth. (otherwise known as a lie) And once you have lied, you have to support that lie at all costs. Until your life has become so complicated by the lie and you’ve invested so heavily in obscuring the lie that to confess would destroy your life as you know it. And so the lie never existed. But your entire life becomes tainted by the lie that never existed. And it doesn’t matter who you hurt by denying the lie, because it’s better 200,000 children feel a loss of identity and culture than it is to admit you’ve done something bad. Even if it weighs heavy on your heart.

Again, Holt, you say you are Christians. What would Jesus do? What did Mary do? What did the Innkeeper do? Did he try and convince Mary that giving Jesus up would be better for her in the long run? Did he try and convince Mary that giving Jesus up would be better for Jesus? Did he offer to broker a new family for Jesus? No. He offered to let them stay out of the cold for free.

And do you know why my family felt secure leaving my possible sister and me alone in the market? Because the whole country knew that Holt took babies and sent them to what was supposedly a better life in other countries. That’s the only reason. HOLT’s PRESENCE is what made my abandonment an option. And do you know what would have happened if you weren’t there? I might have been malnourished, I might have had a hard life for a very long time, it’s true. But without that option, my parents would have had no choice but to keep me or find someone in Korea who would. Basically, HOLT’s PRESENCE was the catalyst for abandonment.

from dictionary.com:


1. Chemistry. a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected.
2. something that causes activity between two or more persons or forces without itself being affected.
3. a person or thing that precipitates an event or change: His imprisonment by the government served as the catalyst that helped transform social unrest into revolution.
4. a person whose talk, enthusiasm, or energy causes others to be more friendly, enthusiastic, or energetic.

It’s true I might have become malnourished and lead a hard life. But I would have known my parents, my country, my culture my language, and somebody here would have loved me. You took advantage of a nation during times of hardship. You really should feel a deep deep sense of shame for this.

As catalysts, you’ve managed to live unharmed and even put a spin on the mass scale separation and dislocation of thousands of children into a saint-like activity. But the chickens are coming home to roost. The time for making excuses is over. The apologies are long overdue. The time for restitution is now, and you can start by making it easier for adoptees to find out ALL the information about themselves. And please put an end to giving this gift that keeps on hurting. Please stop exporting babies.

Written by girl4708

June 7, 2009 at 12:59 am

Posted in Dealing with the Devil

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Baby exporting nation

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You might have seen this already, but for those that haven’t  – it’s really worth watching.

Please don’t let the expose music turn you off – it gets calmer and more and more relevent to your typical Korean adoption the further into the story you get.

And I, personally, really relate to the first case where the mother had papers pushed in front of her to sign while she was recouperating from her cesarian section.  I recall the fog I was in right after surgery and while in recovery, and I would not have been fully aware of what was going on.  Additionally, I did not recognize my own child after I saw it a day later – general anesthesia divorces you from that recognition – so it really hurt me to know she didn’t even get to see her baby after it was born.

It’s also really interesting how they view the returning adoptees in this video, and gives some nice exposure to Koroot, ASK, and GOAL.

Written by girl4708

November 14, 2008 at 11:56 am

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Not the only one

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I’ve heard this same story from so many of my fellow adoptees.

The view of Holt is quite different from this side of the triad…

from Seoul Searching

As some of you may already know, I’ve been patiently searching for birth family during the past eight months here. After much time, patience, arguing, persistence, and waiting, my adoption agency finally released some information to me. If anyone plans to adopt in the future, please refrain from adopting through Holt. Dealing with their post-adoption services has been perhaps one of the most frustrating experiences in my life. They deal with adult adoptees who return to Korea seeking their files in a completely cold-hearted, insensitive and distant manner.

The first time I met with the social worker she treated me as if I was creating this huge burden for her and all of Holt for asking to see my file. It is apparently “against Holt policy” to release any personal or identifying information of the birth parents, and besides, “why do you want to search for your birthmother anyways?” After being denied information on countless occasions, I realized that following the Korean model of persistence is the only way you will get what you want. By American standards it would be called stalking, but culturally in Korea, if you really want something in life it’s better to show your commitment and desire for it by being persistent, rather than waiting for that thing to come to you. (And yes, that is why I have found so many Korean guys to be stalkers. But apparently in Korea they’re not being freaky stalkers, but rather showing the girl how much they respect and like her).

To make a long story short, I’ve spent the last three months relentlessly calling, visiting, and emailing this one social worker who is dealing with my case. I don’t think she means to be a cold-hearted, insensitive bi*** (excuse my French) but that’s how she comes across. Anytime I have dealt with her she makes me feel like a complete stranger, treats me as if I am inconveniencing her life, and is completely ingenuine. One of the worst feelings in the world is sitting across from this woman as she clutches onto my file for dear life, as if I am going to leap across the table, snatch it and run away with all of my birthmother’s information. Yes I realize it’s Holt’s policy, but I cannot quite grasp the concept that this complete stranger can hold the answers to my life, yet can deny me anything and everything that I yearn to know. After 9 grueling months, I have finally found just enough information to begin piecing together the puzzle of my life. It’s barely enough information to know anything, but it’s hopefully just enough to lead to the answers of my unanswered questions….

Written by girl4708

November 11, 2008 at 7:38 am

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Hard to Believe

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Take a look at these statistics from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which I found on the Overseas Adopted Koreans (OAK) website:

Stats on Adoptees > Background of Adopted Koreans, 1958-2007
☞ Background of Adopted Koreans, 1958-2007
Year Abandoned Split family Single mother Total Male Mixed Disability Total
연도 기아 결손가정 미혼모 남자 혼혈 장애
1958~60 1,675 630 227 2,532 734 1,159 1,588 3,481
1961~70 4,013 1,958 1,304 7,275 2,254 2,659 2,064 6,977
1971-80 17,260 13,360 17,627 48,247 17,320 4,598 21,918
1981-90 6,769 11,399 47,153 65,321 30,460 16,378 46,838
1991-2000 225 1,444 20,460 22,129 12,009 8,987 20,996
2001 1 1 2,434 2,436 1,364 743 2,107
2002 1 2,364 2,365 1,679 827 2,506
2003 2 2 2,283 2,287 1,367 649 2,016
2004 1 2,257 2,258 1,385 705 2,090
2005 4 28 2,069 2,101 1,353 737 2,090
Total 29,950 28,823 98,178 156,951 69,925 3,818 37,276 111,019

Look especially at the 9 years from 1971-1980.

17,260 ABANDONED children!

Now, isn’t that a little hard to swallow?

I’m sure the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s matrix is not wrong – I think we have to consider the source here. I would venture to guess that source is none other than the adoption agencies.

They are the same ones who call babies of coerced expectant mothers “orphans”, even though their mothers are still alive. I’m sure they called a lot of those relinquished children “abandoned” as well.

Let’s do a little math here:

17,260 children divided by 9 year is 1,918 children per year.

The cease fire of the Korean War took place in 1953.

1971 – 1953 is 18 years. Many of the “abandoned” children from 1971 -1980, their mothers were even too young to have been directly affected by the war.

In that same period, 17, 627 single mothers relinquished their babies, as opposed to 1,304 the decade previous? What the heck changed? Along with split families (whatever that is), adoptions shot up to 48,247 from 7, 275 the decade previously.

Written by girl4708

November 10, 2008 at 9:35 am

Posted in Dealing with the Devil

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Latest Letter to Holt

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Steve Kalb of Holt International,

I entered into this search process not unlike most every other adoptee, naively thinking Holt would help me out as stated on your website.  However, this process, though friendly, has been continuously frustrated by your methods.

The body of this letter has been removed since Holt has decided to DO THE RIGHT THING and assist me.

I would like to close my dealings with your organization on a positive note.  Please give me reason to do so.

I’m glad Holt chose to do the right thing and fully explore every available avenue of reunion.  I hope it is based on conscience and not becuase of public disclosure.  Fully exploring every available avenue of reunion should be the first response, instead of the last resort after a long arduous triage. I hope this is a new beginning for Holt, and that future adoptees in search benefit from our difficult relationship.

Written by girl4708

October 21, 2008 at 2:12 am

Posted in Dealing with the Devil

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Sunny Jo beats the devil at his own game

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Sunny Jo encountered the same kind of deflecting and stone-walling from Holt that every other Korean adoptee encounters.  I wish I had written my “Be Tenacious:  How to get your identity back” article for her back then.

Persistence, my KAD brothers and sisters.

Read Sunny Jo’s story here

Here’s her website

I think I’m following in the same tradition.  Only there are thousands of us now.  Our voices must unite.

Written by girl4708

October 2, 2008 at 6:20 pm

Posted in Dealing with the Devil

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Breadcrumbs Blowing in the Wind – half draft

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For four decades I never cared about searching for my birth mother.

In fact, the very mention of it made me stiffen, and I would quickly find some way to dismiss the idea and try to steer whoever was asking back onto a more comfortable topic.

My comments changed over the years, from:

I already have parents, I don’t need to look for more


Why bother, it’s impossible


Why would I want more drama in my life?

Then my parents, who I’d been estranged from since I was 17, both died.  Then I was raped.  Then my best friend abandoned me because she blamed me for the rape.  Then I fell in love with someone very young and was abandoned because of our age difference.  Then another friend abandoned me because I would do something so reckless, because she couldn’t understand my value system.  All this abandonment and heartache in the course of two years. Unrelenting.

I had a nervous breakdown; just stayed in a permanent fetal position for two months and fought off the continuous waves of pain.  It was so physical, so piercing, I just wanted it to stop.  I love my kids and I’m a good mom, but all I could think about was ending this pain, making it stop forever.  I realized my childhood abuse had made me withdraw, permanently disadvantaging me in being able to communicate with people and live comfortable in society.  Maybe this was why people always left me.

I went to a therapist who specialized in incest.  It helped a little with the child sexual abuse.  But it didn’t help with the grief I felt about all the people I’d just lost and I didn’t think I could ever trust anyone ever again.  Perhaps I still don’t.  So I looked elsewhere on how to deal with the grief.  I’m still looking.  But one day, everything came full circle and I realized I had been adopted and that maybe being abandoned at an early age had everything to do with everything.

I know, I know – it’s so obvious.  But when your life depends on making the best of a bad situation, on doing whatever it takes to be progressive, to not be destroyed by your circumstance – then sometimes you have to distance yourself from the obvious.  It’s called denial.  Others call it the adoption fog.  And when you’re abused, taking care of yourself – your emotional self – requires you to push the real you down deep, far from harm’s way.  So far even I couldn’t access it, couldn’t identify my own emotions, wants, needs. I just blindly moved always forward, guided by an impossibly rigid moral compass, superhuman.

But one day I woke up.  I realized the glue that held me together was gaseous.  It was a thin vapor of some remote early self esteem.  Little molecules of self esteem moving slowly through a soupy void of concentrated grief and abandonment, which had been there since earliest memory.  I’d never isolated the grief because it was my constant companion, my waking state of being.  So it wasn’t just the recent string of losses, but a back catalog of grief, stuffed inside too small a container.  How did I make it to so many birthdays?  Could those little molecules of self esteem have been enough to have pulled me through an entire childhood of abuse, and the handicap that created as I tried to make a career and a life for my two babies?  And where did that self esteem come from?  It certainly didn’t come from my sterile and repressed mother, or my cowardly self-pitying father, or anyone else in my post adoption household.  It came from some far off place, in a distant land, from some far off people.

It was time to search.

After my parents’ death, I received a box with some papers in it.  Inside was a baby album and some documents.  I’d never seen the documents before.  Naturalization papers and some correspondence with Holt adoption agency in Eugene, reminding my parents that I needed to be naturalized, as well as some courtesy replies to unsolicited updates from my mother, and supporting documents from my grandmother who assisted getting my parents approved for adoption.

In the baby book was a treasured photo of me and my foster mother.  She looked equal parts caring and tough, this thin wrinkling woman holding the fat baby.  To her, all my gratefulness and longing for mother was directed.  I simply HAD to find her and thank her for giving me whatever it was that kept me going all these years.

My parents told me very little about my adoption, mostly only about the stress they underwent as my flight got repeatedly delayed due to bureaucracy and then bad weather, and how they had to drive from Detroit to Chicago twice to pick me up, one time empty handed.  They told me I was fat and well cared for, thanks to my foster mother.  They told me they had no further information.

So all my life I thought I had been given up at birth, and this woman had taken care of me for almost three years.  I WAS fat and happy – once – and I owed it all to her.

So I took the big step and emailed Holt, and then my whole world went sideways…

I entered the passive registry, paid the $25, asked for my child records from Holt International in Eugene, and also inquired about contacting the foster mother, whom they said they could forward information on to.

Turns out that wasn’t necessary, as the papers reveal I was at Holt’s orphanage, and that if I had a foster mother, it was only for a very short time:

Instead of being admitted at birth, I was admitted at 2 years of age.  Instead of living in Seoul, I came from a small town sixty miles away from Seoul.  Instead of having a foster mother my entire infancy, I had A FAMILY for two years!  The medical reports state the nurses say I made friends easily and was cheerful and obedient.  No mention of foster mothers.  The woman in the photo was probably a nurse.

Knowing I had a family changed everything.  In tandem with this search was also an exploration of adoption and what it means / what it does to children.  The more exchange I had with Holt, the more incensed I became at the violation of our rights as adoptees – both at the time we were being shipped all over the world to now, as adults.

Return Email from D. at Holt:

Photos are not required when registering for the VAR.  Photos and a letter are to be included with an Assisted Search application, which can only be submitted following a favorable file assessment.
After reviewing your file here at our headquarters, it appears that you were abandoned and that there is no other information regarding your birth family.  Unfortunately, this means that there isn’t enough information for Holt Korea to begin an assisted search.
Also attached to this email is some information regarding conducting an independent search which you might find helpful.  I am going to request an assessment of your file from Holt Korea in the fall, just to confirm that they have no additional information.  I will be holding your file until September, and will let you know what the response is to our request.  It is extremely rare that Holt Korea would have additional information that has not been passed on to us, but I’d prefer to confirm this.
i’ve scanned some more documents i’ll go over, to be continued in a few days…

Written by girl4708

September 29, 2008 at 10:25 pm

Posted in Dealing with the Devil

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Adoption in Korea and Birth Family Search

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from OAKs : Overseas Adopted Koreans

Very interesting article about the history of adoption in Korea, international adoption overview, adoption and Korean culture, as well as provocative questions every adoptee in search should consider, followed by resources to assist you.

Check out their website – there are resources to introduce you to your lost culture, as well as a search board, understanding Korean law, statistics, adoption agencies, and media resources.

Here’s their publication for you to download:

Adoption in Korea

Written by girl4708

September 27, 2008 at 8:05 pm